Phylogeography and alpha taxonomy of the common dolphin (Delphinus sp.)

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The resolution of taxonomic classifications for delphinid cetaceans has been problematic, especially for species in the genera Delphinus, Tursiops and Stenella. The frequent lack of correspondence between morphological and genetic differentiation in these species raises questions about the mechanisms responsible for their evolution. In this study we focus on the genus Delphinus, and use molecular markers to address questions about speciation and the evolution of population structure. Delphinus species have a worldwide distribution and show a high degree of morphological variation. Two distinct morphotypes, long-beaked and short-beaked, have been considered different species named D. capensis and D. delphis, respectively. However, genetic differentiation between these two forms has only been demonstrated in the Pacific. We analysed samples from eight different geographical regions, including two morphologically defined long-beaked form populations, and compared these with the eastern North Pacific populations. We found high differentiation among the populations described as long-beaked instead of the expected monophyly, suggesting that these populations may have evolved from independent events converging on the same morphotype. We observed low genetic differentiation among the short-beaked populations across a large geographical scale. We interpret these phylogeographical patterns in the context of life history and population structure in related species.

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